Frances's eight major union federations held demonstrations across the country on May 1 — the international workers' day. It was the third jointly organised day of mass workers demonstrations this year.
The May Day demonstrations were part of a united campaign to force President Nicolas Sarkozy to implement policies to protect workers and the poor from the global economic crisis..
More than 1.2 million people took part in 286 protests across France. While the number of protesters was down on the January and March demonstrations, the General Federation of Labour (CGT) said the number was five times larger than the 2008 May Day protests.
In its May Day statement, the CGT said the mobilisation successfully involved a large number of new participants — from both the public and private sector.
The lower numbers attending protests may reflect the fact that May Day is a public holiday in France.
Opinion polls have indicated that 70% of people support the union campaign. This may explain why the opposition Socialist Party encouraged its members to take part in the May Day marches for the first time since 2002.
The eight union confederations have called further mass protests for May 26 and June 13. The announcement followed a May 4 meeting of the confederation leaderships.
In a joint statement, the unions said the May Day demonstration "testified to the deep roots of the mobilisation and indicated the commitment of employees, job seekers and retirees to express their grievances and get a response".
It said that "the government and employers would be wrong to treat them with contempt by refusing them, whereas the crisis, with unemployment and dismissals, strike them (workers, retirees and job seekers) with full whip".
The unions are meeting to develop the demands by the movement on the government and employers so far. The unions have made it clear they expect a quick response to their demands.